I am continuing my pre-season predictions today. Yesterday I posted my predictions for the Pacific Division and today I move on to the Central Division. The new alignment makes my predictions a little uncertain. I don't expect to have my predictions completed for the East Conference until a few games have been played and those games may affect my predictions. I don't care much about a single game result. It will be long term trends that become clear (for example a key longterm injury) that would affect my predictions.
Here are my Central Division picks:
1. Chicago Blackhawks - They are the defending Stanley Cup champions and were clearly the best team in the NHL last year. There will likely be a Stanley Cup hangover but they have a lot of talent. It will be hard to beat the team of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. If there is a weakness it is in goal where Corey Crawford has never proven himself to be a top flight NHL goalie.
2. St Louis Blues - Ken Hitchcock is a very good coach and will get the most out of this team. Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk lead a very good defence but I am not so sold on their forwards. Chris Stewart was their only forward who exceeded 28 points. In goal Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott have looked good at times but have been largely inconsistent. This isn't a top flight team but they will likely exceed their talent levels.
With the regular season coming up, I am going to begin making my predictions for the 2013/14 season. We have a new alignment which will make things a little bit interesting and harder to predict than usual. Nevertheless I plan to try to make my pre-season predictions starting in the Pacific Division.
1. Los Angeles Kings - The 2012 Stanley Cup champions have recovered from their Stanley Cup hangover and have a talented team that led the NHL in puck possession last year. Jonathan Quick is one of the top goalies in the game. Drew Doughty is one of the top defencemen in the game. Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams lead a solid deep group of forwards. This is one of the best teams in the NHL.
2. Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks window to win the Stanley Cup is beginning to close. In a perfect world Roberto Luongo and the Sedin brothers can lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup but since they are all in their 30s their best days are likely gone. If Ryan Kesler can remain healthy it will really help. On defence, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa lead a group which is solid but is not the Canucks biggest strength.
3. San Jose Sharks - This is another team that is probably on its way down without having won a cup. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are no longer young men. Logan Couture may be ready to take over the scoring lead, but he isn't the player they were in their primes. Dan Boyle remains the top defenceman and he too is getting old. Antti Niemi was a surprise Vezina Trophy nominee last year, but few consider him a truly top goaltender.
I have been writing several posts about sabermetrics and hockey over the off-season. I have been looking at Corsi ratings. These are the difference between attempted shots by a team and their opponents when a player is on the ice in even strength situations. This number is then adjusted for the team which the player plays on and the situation in which he plays. The situation a player plays in is measured using zone starts. This is the number of times a player is on the ice for a faceoff in a given zone. Each excess zone start is worth 0.8 points of Corsi. This is used to rank a player's puck possession ability. The adjustments attempt to make this an individual ranking that ranks an individual player's puck possession.
Here are the worst twenty players in the 2013 by team and zone adjusted Corsi. These are players who usually have the puck under their opposition's control while they are on the ice. This is not a strong group of players.
A few days ago I posted the top 20 players by team and zone adjusted Corsi ratings. Leading the list was Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. This is a strong argument that Bergeron is the best puck possession player in the NHL in 2013.
Bergeron is a top defensive forward with solid offensive skills. He plays a tough role for the Boston Bruins where he plays against tough opposition and has a large number of defensive zone starts. Despite that, while Bergeron is on the ice Boston usually controls the puck. This is a significant advantage to the Bruins. The best players on the opposing team play what should be offensive shifts but Boston takes control of the puck. That is a way to diffuse the offensive strength of their opposition. I think this shows Bergeron is a far more valuable player than his offensive numbers show. That is why he has played with Team Canada in the Winter Olympics. He is a centreman who hasn't topped 65 points in a season in the last six years and is far more valuable than those numbers show. This is a success of Corsi to show the value of a player who is clearly more valuable than his offensive numbers show.
I have been looking at sabermetrics and hockey this summer. Specifically, I have been looking into making Corsi ratings into a meaningful ranking of players. Corsi is a measure of puck possession found by comparing attempted shots by a team and their opponents in 5 on 5 situations when a given player is on the ice. Raw rankings can be strongly dependent upon the team for which a player plays. Thus I removed team effects. These rankings are now strongly dependent upon the role a player plays with his given team. This is measured by looking at the excess zone starts a given player has. For each extra time he is on the ice for an offensive faceoff his Corsi will be on average 0.8 units higher. This effect is removed. The problem here is this is partially accounted for in the team adjustment and the team excess zone starts must not be double counted.
This gives a pretty good list of players who drive the puck possession when they are on the ice. Since team and zone start effects are removed we have removed the main effects that bias these rankings.
This is not a ranked list of the best players in the NHL. Puck possession is only one part of hockey and this is a solid, but imperfect method of measuring it.
Here are the top 20 players in 2013 by team and zone adjusted Corsi:
Steve Simmons is arguing with me in his Sunday Toronto Sun columns. In his most recent column, which is over a week old, he wrote:
The Leafs penalty killing went from almost-record terrible for years to near tops in the league last season and Jay McClement was a big part of the change and the success. But he can’t be any good because advanced statistics consider him one of the worst players in hockey.
This is how he argues. He puts a cryptic soundbite in his column that much of his readership doesn't understand. It shows that he doesn't like Corsi and the reason for his dislike is probably a failure to understand it. His comment came on the heels of my post that Jay McClement had the worst raw Corsi in 2013.
This isn't the first time he has posted something along these lines. In his previous week's column he wrote:
Another reason why I have next to great difficulty for the CORSI analytic statistic in hockey. I saw a team adjusted CORSI ranking for this past season. Tyler Seguin of the Bruins was rated fifth best in the NHL. The same Seguin whom Bruins coach Claude Julien kept on the third line, moving rookie Carl Soderberg from press box to first-line centre when Patrice Bergeron got hurt. I’ll take Julien’s instincts over strange numbers anytime
I responded to that comment, which makes no substantive argument against Corsi here.
I am taking a look at sabermetrics and hockey this summer. I have been looking at Corsi ratings and how to turn them into a meaningful individual ranking. I have produced a top 20 and worst 20 list of team adjusted Corsi ratings. This is a gage of which players have the best puck possession in 5 on 5 situations relative to that of their teammates. The main problem with these rankings is that it doesn't take into account the fact that players on the same team play different roles. Some player more offensive roles and others play more defensive roles. One way to gage this is using offensive and defensive zone starts. When a faceoff occurs we record which players are on the ice and in which zone of the ice. Those who are on the ice for more offensive zone starts than defensive zone ones play more offensive roles and are expected to have higher Corsi ratings than those who play more defensive roles with more defensive zone starts than offensive ones. This is an effect that can be included into adjusted Corsi ratings.
First we must know which players have the biggest imbalance in their zone starts. I posted the top 20 players by excess offensive zone starts. Today here are the top 20 players by excess defensive zone starts. These are the players who have the highest number of defensive zone starts minus offensive ones. These are players who have been unfairly given low rankings in the team adjusted Corsi lists.
One of the interesting things to watch this season will be the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers since they exchanged coaches. In 2013 Alain Vigneault coached the Vancouver Canucks and John Tortorella coached the New York Rangers. In 2013/14, Vigneault will coach the Rangers and Tortorella will coach the Canucks. In principle it is a great way to evaluate these coaches relative to one another. In practice things will not be so simple because there will be other changes in personnel, injuries etc. that muddy the comparison, but it will still be interesting.
We can look at these moves from the point of view of zone starts. I recently published the top 20 players by excess offensive zone starts in 2013 and it is clear that two teams are more heavily represented on the list and they are the Canucks and Rangers. From the Canucks, Daniel and Henrik Sedin are first and second on the list and their usual linemate Alexandre Burrows is seventh. From the Rangers, traded Marian Gaborik is second, Brad Richards is sixth, Rick Nash is 12th and Michael Del Zotto is 17th. We can see that both teams employ the strategy of giving their top offensive players as many excess offensive zone starts as possible. It was probably a more common thing in Vancouver because the Sedins had a better season than Gaborik, Richards et al did with the Rangers.
This summer I have been looking into sabermetrics and hockey. I have specifically been looking at Corsi ratings and their adjustment. I have produced a top 20 and worst 20 list of players by team adjusted Corsi ratings. The biggest problem with these lists is that they do not take into account the different ways players can be used on the same team. The most easily quantifiable difference comes from zone starts. We record which of the three zones (offensive, neutral and defensive) a player is in when he is on the ice for a faceoff. This is a measure of how defensive or offensive a player's role is. A player used in a defensive role will have more defensive zone faceoffs and a player used in an offensive role will have more offensive zone faceoffs. Similarly a player with a lot of offensive zone starts should have a higher Corsi than one who has a lot of defensive zone starts. This is another factor we can adjust for.
Today I will list the players with the most excess offensive zone starts. This is offensive zone starts minus defensive zone starts. That is the meaningful number when adjusting Corsi for zone starts. These are players who were used in offensive roles either because they have little defensive value and need to be protected or because they are the top offensive player on their team and you want to maximize their offensive value. These are players who are overrated by team adjusted Corsi. That doesn't make them overrated players. Rather they are players who played a role that should maximize their Corsi.
Here are the top 20 players in 2013 by excess offensive zone starts:
Several days ago I posted the 20 worst players by team adjusted Corsi in 2013. This is a measure of puck possession while a player is on the ice in 5 on 5 situations. The players are then ranked against a team dependent baseline so that comparison between teams is possible. It is an imperfect comparison as players will play under different circumstances on the same team, so the same adjustment for each player will be at best an approximation. The worst player in 2013 by this metric was Robyn Regehr, who split the season between the Buffalo Sabres and Los Angeles Kings. He posted a -188.04 team adjusted Corsi.
Regehr was once a top NHL player. He was on Team Canada in the 2004 World Cup and 2006 Olympics. Even in those days he was not the strongest puck possession player. Regehr was good defensively and this translated to his Corsi because he didn't allow his opponents much puck possession. The problem is he no longer does that. Regehr is no longer a strong defensive player and he never had offensive skills. He is the kind of player who will be poor at puck possession and his value to any NHL team is questionable.
About The Puck Stops Here
Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.
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